Cordoba in a day…

The best part about living in Seville is its accessibility to the rest of Andalusia. And if you want to pop over to another city, it’s easy, quick, and cheap!

The mosque in Cordoba giving amazing views over the city

Cordoba is located north of Seville, and you can get there in between 45 minutes and an hour and twenty, depending on which train you catch. Be prepared on arrival, as the train station is located just to the north of the city centre. When we visited Cordoba, we’d timed our trip with the ‘Los Patio’s’ festival, where the locals open up their homes’ patios and show off their beauty to hoards of tourists. It seemed like a good idea ahead of time, but in reality, the queues were long, and some of the gardens shut during the afternoon. We only managed to sneak a peak in two gardens throughout the day.

Cordoba, like Seville, has the Guadalquivir River running through the centre of it. One thing you must do is to cross the Roman Bridge and look back out over the city. The centre of your attention will be the Mosque, with the Alcazar to its left. It’s worth the walk just for the photos. 

Cordoba is famous for its mosque, which was finished being built in 750AD, and was converted to a cathedral in the 1600’s. Thanks to the Los Patios festival, we didn’t have the time to stand in the super long queues, but we did snag a ticket and went for a walk climb up the Bell Tower, and got to appreciate some amazing views of the city. If I had the time and the money, I’d go back to Cordoba just for the Mezquita. 

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Throughout the day, we did manage to luck out. We stumbled across some flamenco down a side street, before finding a not too long line to head into a garden. The garden was beautiful, and it really would be a dream to live in a house with a patio like there’s.  We wandered away from the big hubbub, in search of some smaller, less crowded gardens. Unfortunately, that backfired on us – when you’re in Spain, remember people have afternoon siestas and things may not always be open when you think they should be.  Cordobas bell tower, part of its iconic mosqueWe also missed out on a good lunch, ignoring our flatmates carefully put together a list of top spots, and headed to the first place with an open table. A disappointing lunch later, we made it back to the Mosque.  There are some amazing looking restaurants hidden down side streets and back alleys – don’t always go for one on the popular tourist strip!

Our last mission for the day was to find some sherry, but the highly recommended spot turned out to be closed, though to make up for it, we stumbled across a final garden – and the best we’d seen in both person and photographs.

It was an amazing trip – and the train ride there only cost us €20.

 

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Trek America Tips

Last Summer, I was lucky enough to embark on two Trek America’s – the Best of the East and the Western Wonder (SF-LA). We did them almost back to back, with just a week in between. It’s safe to say, we weren’t sure what to expect when we walking into the lobby of our New York hotel that first morning. And the next two weeks sure were a learning curve. I mean, I’d never even put up a tent before that trip!

American Falls, located next to the Niagara Falls

There are a few must-haves that you may not realise you’d need before you start your Trek-

1- Headtorch

You may not think ahead of time that this is essential, but when you’re trying to cooking in pitch black or find something in your suitcase whilst you’re packing up in the dark at 7am, it really makes all the difference. An added bonus would be a torch that you can hang from the top of your tent – talk about home comforts!

2- Sleeping bag liner

You may not think a sleeping bag liner would be important, but when it’s been 40° degrees during the day and you want to be covered whilst you sleep, but a sleeping bag would be too much, you’re going to be thankful you bought one! Mine doubled up in purpose – I’d bought a cheap, £10 sleeping bag from Amazon that was perfect for our Treks, but the innermost layer was a sweaty polyester. Having this extra cotton layer was much needed.

3- Full-sized pillow

This may seem like an over-the-top luxury, but when you’re trying to sleep through the long drives a pillow is perfect! Thanks to the fast-paced nature of a Trek, you’re just going to get more and more exhausted the long the trip ends – and the best way to get a good night sleep is with a comfortable place to lay your head! I bought mine from an Ikea, conveniently located next to our hotel in New Haven, and left it in the van after the second Trek, there for someone else who forgot to buy one.

Everyone loves a good pier - Hermosa Beach

Tips for a Trek- 

Chicago's Cloud Gate

  •  Stay open-minded – you’re going to meet these random strangers that first morning, but by the end of your trip, you’re going to be best friends. You’re going to be enjoying the long drives together, cooking together, and witnessing some pretty cool stuff – even if you don’t clique from the get-go, work on that friendship, it’ll be worth it!
  • Make sure you’re awake in enough time for the first meeting – no one wants to be known as ‘The Late One’ and yes the first meeting is early, but get there on time, and make sure to…
  • Work on your timekeeping! – You don’t want to be the one that holds the rest of the group back! If you have to meet at a certain time, be there on time! There’s nothing worse than leaving late and being the one to blame, especially as some days have a strict timeline, and if you’re not there on time, you could jeopardize the rest of the day’s activities and timings.
  • Take as small a suitcase as possible – I don’t mean rock up with a carry-on suitcase (although someone one of my treks did) but bare in mind, the tents aren’t big, there’s enough room for two camping mats, with a narrow path in the middle. The bigger the suitcase, the more room it’ll need once you’ve opened up, and the more of a disruption you become.
  • Take as many photos as you can – you may feel stupid whilst walking around constantly snapping, but these will be your memories in years to come. It’ll always be better to have plenty of photos to look back on!

San Francisco skyline from the Alamo Square Park

Life in Spain

The famous landmark and movie set, Plaza de España

Life in Spain is truly incomparable. As someone who’s been lucky enough to have spent more than ten years living in two different countries, I’m used to culture shock and learning about a countries way of life. But Spain is different. Everything is so much slower. Shops shut during the afternoon for a siesta because the heat is too much, everyone eats dinner late, toast is the way forward for breakfast. But this country really changes you.

Seville's famous landmark - the Giralda

I first moved to Spain two years ago, when I impulsively signed up and became an Au Pair. Don’t ask what I was thinking, I think I regretted this decision most of the time I was there. But just because I didn’t enjoy my job, doesn’t mean I hated every moment of the experience. I had freedom. I had liberty. I could do whatever I wanted – within reason, I did have to be back by four to pick the kids up.

But time is so much different. I’m doing a job I mostly love, I have a great flat and great flatmates, and I’ve been able to see so much of Andalusia – and squeeze in a quick trip to Madrid. I’m so glad I bit the bullet and came back. Being here as an intern is so much different than being here as an Au Pair. I have a job with normal office hours, four days of the week – which means I now have a third weekend day, ideal to take a quick day trip, have another day to explore Seville and still have a lazy day at home! It really has planned out well!

The world famous palace, the Alhambra (Granada)

I made the decision to move to Spain originally almost impulsively – I knew I had to be out of New Zealand for the European summer but didn’t know how until I came across my au pair agency, but the second time it’s happened differently – in January I wrote it at number one of my to-do list, and by April it had happened – all thanks to an ad that came up on my facebook!

It’s weird to think how different life would be if I hadn’t taken this second plunge!

Torre Tavira's amazing views over Cadiz